The trouble began with the oak tree on my front lawn. Not that the tree itself caused me any difficulty. That lovely tree gave me nothing but pleasure. My father planted it when I was just a girl, more than 60 years ago. I played on it, my late daughter climbed on it. Over the years its sweeping grace has brought me a great deal of comfort and joy. Unfortunately, my neighbor hated it. He said it blocked his view of the Hudson River.
My name is Maggie Dove and I live in a small village in New York, right on the shore of the Hudson River. There are only about 6,000 people in Darby-on-Hudson and I know most of them. I love most of them, and I hope most of them love me. One of the pleasures of living in a small village is that people get to know who you really are. There’s no hiding. Reputation matters. People still remember how I set off the fire alarm in church 20 years ago because I steamed up the oven when I was teaching my Sunday School class how to make pretzels. The whole church had to file out, and that was right during the minister’s stewardship sermon. So embarrassing. But beyond that, I have a good reputation, or I did, up until Marcus Bender bought my old friend’s house next door to mine.
You know how some people just drive you crazy?
I knew, even as I fumed at Marcus Bender and his antics, that it was all petty. So what that he set up a soccer net right alongside my hydrangea bush, so that every missed ball crushed one of its blooms. Or that his daughters kept stealing my snow shovel during storms? Petty stuff, and I knew it. But then he went after my tree. He explained that he wanted an unobstructed view of the river and my little oak tree blocked a portion of it. He offered me money to buy a new tree, and plant it somewhere else, and I said no. My best friend Winifred told me to take the money and move to a condo in Florida, but I don’t want to move. My home is in Darby, in my house, with my tree.
Then, the other morning, I went down to say hello to the tree, as I often do, and I noticed its leaves were dropping off. It smelled wrong. I bent down to look at the dirt and smelled lye’s sharp tang. He was poisoning my tree. I went to his front door and pounded on it and told Marcus Bender that if I found him on my lawn, I’d kill him. Afterwards I was horrified with myself. What was anger doing to me? What was sort of person was I becoming? I vowed that I would never talk to anyone like that again. I had to let my anger go.
The next morning, I found Marcus dead under my tree. It looked like a heart attack, but it wasn’t. It turned out someone poisoned him.
No one seriously suspected me of the crime, but the prime suspect was an outspoken, quarrelsome man who used to be my daughter Juliet’s fiancé. Now I’m not going to say Peter Nelson was an angel. He was the worst Sunday School student I ever had. But he’s been a devoted friend to me, looking after me in the years I’ve mourned my daughter, and I knew absolutely he was not guilty. I’d do anything to protect him. But as I began looking into the crime, I was hit with a disturbing realization. Whoever killed Bender was someone I knew. That meant that someone I love is a murderer, and I doubt this killer’s going to stop with one death.
Maggie Dove is the first book in the NEW Maggie Dove mystery series, published by Alibi/Random House, June 2016.
Susan Breen introduces a charming new series heroine in this poignant and absorbing cozy mystery with a bite. Maggie Dove thinks everyone in her small Westchester County community knows everyone else’s secrets. Then murder comes to town.
When Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove finds her hateful next-door neighbor Marcus Bender lying dead under her beloved oak tree—the one he demanded she cut down—she figures the man dropped dead of a mean heart. But Marcus was murdered, and the prime suspect is a young man Maggie loves like a son. Peter Nelson was the worst of Maggie’s Sunday School students; he was also her late daughter’s fiancé, and he’s been a devoted friend to Maggie in the years since her daughter’s death.
Maggie can’t lose Peter, too. So she sets out to find the real murderer. To do that, she must move past the grief that has immobilized her all these years. She must probe the hidden corners of her little village on the Hudson River. And, when another death strikes even closer to home, Maggie must find the courage to defend the people and the town she loves—even if it kills her.
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Meet the author
Susan Breen’s first mystery, Maggie Dove, is to be published by a digital imprint of Penguin Random House on June 14, 2016. The sequel, Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency, will be published on October. 18, 2016. Susan’s short stories have been published by a number of magazines, among them Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and American Literary Review. One of her stories was selected for inclusion in Best American NonRequired Reading. She is also a proud finalist in the Writers Policy Academy Golden Donut story competition. Susan’s first novel, The Fiction Class, won a Washington Irving Award. Susan teaches creative writing at Gotham Writers in Manhattan. She lives in a small village in the Hudson Valley with her husband, two dogs (cockapoos) and a cat. Her three grown children are flourishing elsewhere.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a digital copy of Maggie Dove and a tote bag. The giveaway will end June 21, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
All comments are welcomed.